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The student news site of Carlisle High School

Periscope

The student news site of Carlisle High School

Periscope

Staff Profile
Noah Guillaume
Noah Guillaume
Staff Writer

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Review)

Copy+of+The+Glass+Castle+held+up+to+the+sun.+
Kennedy Beates
Copy of ‘The Glass Castle’ held up to the sun.

Jeannette Walls is an iconic name in the field of journalism, having written for gossip columns of such iconic titles as The Wall Street Journal and the MSNBC. She lived the high life of the late 90’s and early 2000’s in New York City, residing with her husband in an expensive apartment on Park Avenue. She seemed to have it all. Then in 2005, she appeared on Oprah to reveal a quagmire of an origin story. 

The Glass Castle is Jeannette Walls’s riveting, fiercely optimistic account of her childhood growing up with her older sister Lori, younger brother Brian, and their youngest sister Maureen under parents who consistently behaved like children throughout their upbringing. Walls’ memoir begins with her earliest memories, telling her life’s story up to the time of publishing in 2006. As admitted by her brother in a Q&A with student readers, some of the events cited were edited to make the book flow more comprehensively for readers. An interview with Walls’s mother confirmed that every story was true. 

This memoir gets under the skin of a reader, both by the infuriating neglect of the Walls children and the countering message of persistent, determined hope. Even the parents, the sources of most of the children’s issues, are written with respect and love, moments of relatability woven throughout the memoir. Rex Walls, the author’s father, is in many ways a broken man. His wife, the author’s mother Rose Mary Walls, demonstrates a consistent instability that seems correlated to mental illness. 

Each Walls child received an epithet, courtesy of their parents, which besides being dehumanizing gives a good idea of how Rex and Rose Mary percieve them. Lori, “the smart one”, was consistently left in charge of her siblings and faced expectations of becoming successful. Jeannette, “the hard worker”, faced no such expectations and was undeniably her father’s favorite as a result of her endless faith in him. Brian, “the brave one”, was the protector even at an incredibly young age, often defending himself and his sisters from various threats, and even his mother from their father. Finally Maureen, “the baby”, was often in need of protection, but ended up following such a wide variety of influences that independence became a great struggle for her later in life. Each of their stories are heartbreaking in their own ways, but fiercely powerful for it. 

The writing of The Glass Castle demonstrates Walls’ incredible talent for cutting to the heart of a story while remaining true to its events. She characterizes everyone effortlessly in moments of seemingly endless trial, overseen by parents who are written with compassion despite the atrocious situations she and her siblings survived at their hands. On a technical level, Walls aligns everything masterfully. The vocabulary she employs allows for easy comprehension on the reader’s part, without sounding as though it’s being ‘dumbed down.’ Her choices of which tales to tell display her prowess in storytelling. While many of the traumatizing scenarios seem beyond the realm of comprehension for the average person, each story has a point of relatability which echoes common experiences. It pulls a reader into the novel, gives them a space to observe, to become uncomfortable and to understand Walls and her family on such an intimate level that one feels like a silent tag-along to their journey. Walls brings her memories vibrantly to life for readers, denoting the fantastic talent and skill she has used to reach her place in the writing world, despite the hardship of her upbringing. 

The Glass Castle was a game-changer in a society that kept trauma behind closed doors. While not a chart-topper, the content and vulnerability gave the memoir incredible value for those who felt that in order to be successful, they needed to hide any aspect of themselves that wouldn’t fit society’s views of ‘perfection’. It speaks to the importance of authenticity and inspires her readers to hope. 

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About the Contributors
Ollie Daniels, Staff Writer
Ollie Daniels is a senior at CHS and this is their second year on Periscope staff. They enjoy reading and writing poetry and flash fiction, and they play the marimba in marching band. They write book reviews to encourage other people to read. Their dream is to earn an MFA in creative writing and to become a novel editor.
Kennedy Beates, Staff Writer
Kennedy Beates is a freshman at CHS who took the great opportunity to express her feelings and opinions through publishing her articles in Periscope. She enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and pets. Kennedy is a dedicated and  very opinionated  writer. Kennedy is excited to see what being on the Periscope staff will provide for her and she hopes to continue Periscope in the years to come.
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